Fast food restaurants test ‘food robots’ to limit exposure
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (CBS Newspath) — The coronavirus has changed the way Americans visit fast food restaurants. Wearing masks and socially distancing is designed to keep customers and employees safe. Now some restaurants are looking at technology that doesn’t require a human touch.
The burger chain White Castle has a new employee that could become more common in the wake of the pandemic. The robot arm from Miso Robotics can make french fries using artificial intelligence and is being tested in certain stores.
The fast food industry has been turning to technology more in recent years. Customers can now place an order at a kiosk instead of with a cashier. Miso already has a robot called Flippy making hamburgers for the fast food chain CaliBurger in California.
Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots,” says “dealing with humans now carries a risk.” He sees more companies adopting this type of technology because robots can’t spread coronavirus and it can cut down on worker costs. “Definitely what’s happening with the coronavirus pandemic is going to speed things up,” he says.
The company Chowbotics says sales for its salad making robot called Sally have jumped 60% since the pandemic started.
The business Blendid currently has autonomous smoothie kiosks in just three locations but expects that number to grow to nearly 100 over the next 18 months.
Blendid CEO Vipin Jain says, “I think that COVID has made all the large operators realize that they have to embrace technology.” Jain believes this type of technology is the wave of the future. “I totally imagine a few years down the road you will have a completely robotic food court and you walk in there are multiple concepts, all robotic,” he says.
A robotic food court would mean no need for human workers. But White Castle says its new robot won’t replace employees and instead will allow them to focus on other tasks like disinfecting the restaurant.